Looking for printers to join the new Etsy Manufacturing Marketplace

Today we’re sharing some big news from Etsy, who recently introduced an exciting new opportunity for letterpress printers. For those of you who don’t know Etsy, it’s a marketplace where people people make, buy, and sell unique goods. Etsy has grown over the last ten years to support over 1.5 million designers selling their products online. As these designers grow, they need production help to scale.

Etsy manufacturing is an exciting new opportunity for letterpress printers

As part of this next step, Etsy has announced Etsy Manufacturing, a new marketplace connecting manufacturers to Etsy designers. Printing is one of the largest categories in need of manufacturing help on Etsy. The great thing about working with Etsy designers is that they appreciate the quality and the craft of the letterpress as much as anyone. 

The goal of Etsy Manufacturing is not to inundate businesses with irrelevant inquiries, but to provide quality leads that will result in long term partnerships. When someone contacts you through Etsy Manufacturing, you can browse their shop and products to make sure it’s a fit on both sides. You can also make a beautiful online profile for your business – accessible to anyone – in just a few minutes. Here’s an example featuring Orlando-based letterpress print shop Mama’s Sauce

Etsy manufacturing is an exciting new opportunity for letterpress printers

Interested? It only takes a few minutes to apply and (in case you were curious) there’s absolutely no cost. You can learn more and apply at www.etsy.com/manufacturing/apply.

National Stationery Show Tips for Newcomers

Less than two weeks and counting until the Big Apple hosts the National Stationery Show in the heart of midtown Manhattan. If you’re new to the show (either as an exhibitor or first time attendee), you’re in for a treat: the show hosts the latest and greatest in stationery & letterpress goods. Today we’re sharing some helpful tips & hints direct from NSS veterans themselves. If you have a tip you’d like to share, join in on the conversation and post it in our comments section!

Weaving history with letterpress: the story behind Primrose Press

Tia Blassingame has navigated a printing career with a historical passion and kinetic love for the design process. As the wise woman behind Primrose Press, she threads a dozen different creative experiences into one singular life—a life of letterpress and artists’ books. Tia sat down with us to discuss everything from the powerful draw of history to the genius of typesetting.


TALKING SHOP WITH TIA My training is in architectural design and history. My focus has been on the intersection of architecture, African American history, and perception.

BEAUTIFUL BEGINNINGS During an artist residency, a visual artist and I visited the resident letterpress printer. He was generous enough to open his studio to us, show us how to set type, use his press, everything. It was a perfect day. I still have the broadside that I made that day. Many years later I thought back to that perfect day, when I was thinking about what might make me happy creatively. Up until that point, my creative focus had been upon writing about architecture, African American architectural history, and art. I signed up for letterpress classes at the Center for Book Arts, and almost immediately knew that letterpress printing was for me.


I like the precision of it, the feel of lead type, the rhythm of setting type, and the freedom that comes with wood type, [as well as] how it shows its age. Overall I love how the type, the machines, and the process connects you to another time. You can almost see someone fifty, one hundred years ago doing the exact thing you are doing, in the same way. For someone interested in history, this was a very powerful draw for me. Particularly in considering how slave and freedmen apprenticed or owned by early American printers might have set sentences character by character, but would not have had the freedom to choose their words or sentiments.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT Primrose is the name of the first metal ornament that I purchased. It is a decorative border, and I use it as a symbol of the press, but also in many pieces. Also Primrose was the name of part of a mistrel duo that worked in blackface – Primrose & West. My press work deals with beauty, but also presenting issues of racism in a visually appealing way that might disarm the viewers initial instinct to flee or avoid the topic. Primrose, with this duel meaning, seemed an appropriate name.

THE CREATIVE PROCESS I currently have two veins of activity: letterpress papergoods and artists’ books. For me, the stationery and prints inform my books. I use the notecards to experiment or perfect a technique. For example, I have long been interested in overlay. This is something that I work with a lot. Not all attempts are successful, but over time I get better and more knowledgeable about what works for me. Other times, I want to gain a better understanding about how a material or paper prints or folds or takes ink. I am fortunate in that my customers do not seem to mind the experiments. And I have a group of customers that have been supportive since my first day and have seen my progress.

I am constantly sketching, doodling, thinking/obsessing about projects or sentiments for cards. Some pieces are thoroughly planned out before I get to the press, but I also enjoy figuring it out on the press.

FULL TIME FUN I print as often as possible. I would love to be a full-time printer. My goal is to better marry my stationery pursuits with my artists’ books and prints. I consider myself a book artist and printmaker. I am very hands-on and prefer to be perform all duties: writing the text, designing, creating illustrations, printing, bind, etc.


PRINTING FEATS “Past Present: DC”, my set of artists’ books on segregation in historic and contemporary Washington, D.C., was recently acquired by the State Library of Queensland. I spent over a year researching, made the paper from my own clothing, created the etchings, created the polymer plates, set the type, but at some point you find yourself in a vacuum. You hope the work has meaning to others. At some point you get so close to the project, it is hard to know. The fact that the library felt the piece would resonate with their patrons was very humbling.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Though handset letterpress has my heart, increasingly my projects require the use of typefaces that are not available in metal or wood. I find myself spending more time at my computer before getting to the press. Boxcar Press allows me to bring my designs from sketch to life.

PRESS HISTORY My first press is a very adorable 1906 Sigwalt.

HOME IS WHERE THE PRESS IS My home studio is crammed with paper and artists’ book projects – both finished and in process.


SHOP TIPS If you are in a rush or cocky, it is more than likely that the print gods will not be on your side. The print gods will humble you and remind you how little you know.

WHAT’S NEXT I am big on collaboration, and have had the good fortune to have met some talented artists over the years. In 2013, you can expect more limited edition collaborations. A few years ago, I started a valentine swap with a group of artists (writers, composers, printmakers, book artists, poets). 2013 will bring the 3rd annual Artists’ Valentine Swap. Photos of valentines in process and finished and details on how you can be part of the swap will be posted on the Primrose Press Facebook page.

A big round of thanks out to Tia for letting catch a glimpse at the wonderful world of Primrose Press!

Letterpress That Changes the World

With tidings of good cheer and peace on earth to all men in full swing, we thought it’d be fitting to celebrate the holiday season with a tribute to the remarkable letterpress pieces of truly talented & dedicated printers giving back to their communities. We gathered some of letterpress’s finest for this installment of our  roundtable series. Check out the uplifting responses this immensely talented group has to offer and find out how they’re changing the world, one card at a time. Be sure to tell us about your own charitable projects in the comments section below!

Kathryn Hunter – Blackbird Press

The notebooks: Madeline Ellis of Mimosa by m.e., a local jewelry maker, in town (Baton Rouge, LA) and I started a conversation about collaborating on a project together. So after conversations we decided to do something focusing on our US states, a handmade notebook and necklace. We started right before Hurricane Sandy, but we also knew from living in many hurricane seasons in Louisiana (and felt the impact) that the “state” sets had potential to help with relief whenever the people of a state are affected by some sort of hardship. We started with the states Louisiana and New York (because I was going to exhibit at an Indie craft market in Rochester). As soon as Hurricane Sandy made landfall we agreed to make a New Jersey set as well. At that point when the New York & New Jersey sets were ready to sell we decided to give 50% of the sales to Hurricane Sandy relief. So far we’ve donated to the Red Cross and to the Humane Society to help with recovery (we are both big animal lovers too).

The community reaction so far has been good. Most people are amazed that we are giving anything to charity which is so strange to me. But I think it makes people feel good when they spend money on things that help in some way.

We’ve also had a month long sale in the past to help Tsunami relief in Japan, where we gave 50% of sales. We’ve also given a percentage to the Natures Conservatory or other groups that help restore the Louisiana coast from the sale of our last three limited edition calendars.

Basically, it’s my intention to always give back. And letterpress is such an amazing way to do that. With the history of manifestos to Constitutions, letterpress printing has spread the word of progress and restoration. Honestly, I haven’t had the time to do more projects like this (hustling to keep this small business growing keeps me busier than ever) but we try wherever we can. I’m excited about the “state” notebook/necklace sets because I think they will be able to help when places need it.

Jennifer Parsons – Tiny Pine Press

I got involved with the Joyful Heart Foundation in 2008 when I designed their first Gala invitation. I had worked with Mariska Hargitay (founder and president) in the past on her custom stationery orders, so they reached out to me to see if I would be involved. It was a very simple invitation which was printed digitally because of the quantity and scope, but I was honored to help such an amazing group get the annual fundraising started. It was obvious from the get go that the Tiny Pine Press aesthetic really meshed perfectly with JHF. I quickly became friends with everyone who worked at the foundation. I went to the first Gala and was incredibly touched by their message and vision for helping heal, educate, and empower.

Jen Parsons Joyful Heart

Joyful Heart particularly spoke to me and my own personal healing as a survivor of abuse. One of the things that JHF focuses on in its programming is art therapy: working with your hands to express yourself. They put a lot of emphasis on the healing effects of being creative and putting things on paper. Journalling and collage help the mind relax and in a way focus on self healing. When I learned about this, I realized that printing and graphic design does this for me. Once I am focused on the press, I am able to feel free–which is the ultimate goal.

As I got more and more involved with Joyful Heart, I noticed they focused very much on gratitude. And what way to express gratitude but through the old fashioned mail. So as a gift for the 3rd annual gala, I designed the gratitude cards (it’s my handwriting!) and printed them up on my Chandler & Price 10×15 press. Loving every one. Then I glued rhinestones, as a nod to the sparkle of life in each of us and the element of fun and silliness. After the response from the gala, I decided to produce them in bulk and donate all of the proceeds to Joyful Heart. It was the least I could do after they helped me so much in my healing.

In life it is important that even though things are tough and overwhelming sometimes, we have to keep breathing. This is another message that Joyful Heart has given me that I wanted to give to everyone else. So a couple of years later, I decided to create the “inhale peace, exhale joy” cards, and we put them on Etsy with all the proceeds benefiting the foundation as well.

Overall, the response to the Joyful Heart cards has been great. Sometimes people buy them for themselves and some give them as gifts. Either way, I am happiest when lots are selling so I can keep making more. It makes me feel really great to give back in a way that comes easy to me.

Another special project that I’ve worked on was creating one-of-a-kind pieces for a Japanese letterpress project to benefit orphans of the tsunami n Japan last year called Letterpress of Pray by Bluemoon Letterpress. For this one, I was in a stamp store and so inspired by beautiful vintage Japanese postage stamps that I created a letterpress piece around that. I wrote in my handwriting my prayer for the japanese orphans, and I put a Japanese stamp and an American vintage stamp in “to:” and “from:” boxes. I made twenty of these and shipped them off to Japan with hopes that someone would value this little piece of art enough to help a worthy cause.

Maggie Cambell – Campbell Raw Press

I’ve wanted to build giving back into our business for at least the last year. When I heard Harold talk about the way Boxcar & Smock have made this into part of their business, I felt like I had found a model and wanted to do the same, sooner rather than later. I think making beautiful stationery is as noble as any other pursuit you love, but I also wanted to give something to folks who were doing the hard work in the world, making life better for whoever they could.

Maggie Campbell Autograph

There are a couple of areas that appealed to me right off the bat. I knew I wanted to do something with women and children who needed more than they had or were in bad situations. I found Safe Horizon through Charity Navigator and we support them now with 5% of the sales from our Autograph Cards. They assist victims of domestic violence and child abuse and have offices in many of the NYC courthouses, so they’re very present and accessible.

Maggie Cambell Over Through Woods
Maggie Campbell Joy

We also had a dear friend from high school, Josh Casteel, who died this past August of stage 4 adenocarcinoma lung cancer almost certainly because of his military service in Afghanistan, tending burn pits, after he became a conscientious objector. 5% of the sales from our new holiday cards (Over the River & Joy to the World) go to Iraq Veterans Against the War in his honor.

Maggie Campbell Calendar

Finally this year, my mother in-law was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease, which has been a pretty terrible way to put all of our priorities front and center. $15 from the sale of each 2013 cyanotype + letterpress calendar and $5 from the sale of each Book of Days perpetual calendar go to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund, which funds research to prevent and cure Alzheimer’s.

We’ve gotten incredible feedback about all of these donation initiatives. My mother in-law is extremely proud of our contribution to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund and that organization actually interviewed me recently and will feature our calendars in their upcoming newsletter! Also, customers who come up to my table at craft fairs and who buy my cards online are excited to find out that they’re doing a little something extra good with their purchase. It’s incredibly rewarding, and I’m excited to write some substantial checks to all 3 of these organizations at the end of this year!

 Shauna Rue – Purple Ink Press

Shauna Rue Purple Ink Press

I had the Boston card available for sale in my etsy shop, so when I heard about Owen Carrignan, I knew the card was a perfect fit. Owen was a 6-year-old boy from my town who passed away from complications related to a sudden E. coli infection. The Owen E. Carrignan Sports Scholarship Fund was established to keep alive his love & spirit, and to celebrate his love of Boston sports; 100% of the proceeds from the Boston card are donated to the fund in his memory. To hear that a young boy died so suddenly was heartbreaking, but I was shocked to learn that he was actually my cousin’s wife’s nephew–although I had never met him.  Selling a card in his honor was the very least I could do.

Shauna Rue

The card has been very popular, despite only being available on Etsy.  I look forward to selling it at next year’s fundraisers, which will certainly generate more sales.

In terms of other projects: just last week I sold an assortment of letterpress cards at Kai’s Holiday Village, a fundraiser that was held in memory of a local 2-year-old boy who recently lost his battle with an inoperable brain tumor. 100% of the sales went to support Kai’s Village, a newly founded, (truly!) grassroots group that provides support to families affected by a serious illness.  Kai’s mother, Kerri, expressed an interest in creating a line of stationery that can help support some of the organizations that were invaluable to her son during his fight, so I look forward to making that a reality for her in 2013.

Additionally, I will be adding a donations section to my wedding suite offerings (sometime in early 2013): when couples give a designated amount to a registered charity, I will print coordinating reception cards, coasters, etc. for free.

I love what I do.  And when I can help others in the process, it makes my amazing job even better.  Sometimes I feel like one card sale isn’t going to help much, but then I remind myself that following is worth remembering: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Margret Mead)

Tess Darrow & Kara Yanagawa – Egg Press

We have donated to organizations large and small, all to organizations that we believe in. We teach an elective class on letterpress and screen-printing to one of our local schools, the Metropolitan Learning Center. The class had fun learning about business, technique, and art while having fun with hands-on training and talks of the printing industry. Cards sold at a sale in March, 2012 went to benefit the MLC.

Egg Press Mercy Corps
We have proudly printed pieces for American Foundation for Equal Rights, Tie The Knot, Mercy Corps, Operation Hope and Rock and Roll Camp for Girls. Last December, Egg Press was able to donate their time and printing expertise while partnering with Mercy Corps on their holiday card. A piece that supported the Mercy Corps vision of worldwide education, providing communities with emergency response, conflict management, micro lending, and more.

Egg Press Breast Cancer

In addition we have donated countless gift baskets for fundraisers to benefit public schools and local organizations. Last year, Tess designed a “good luck with your boobs” card to send to friends with upcoming mammograms or those dealing with breast cancer. A percentage of each card sold is donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Tia Blassingame – Primrose Press

Tia Blassingame Blues Print

I approached musician and composer Dave Eggar of Deoro, whom I had met during an artist residency at MacDowell Colony, about collaborating on a project. I really wanted to work on a piece about blues music, which I adore and constantly have playing in the studio. He was amenable to such a piece. He was on tour and I was in graduate school at the time, so we tried to conceive of a collaboration that would work despite our schedules and distance. I felt it would be interesting for people to hear a musician verbalize the significance of blues music, particularly a musician that is not specifically a blues musician.  The idea that this music would affect musicians across genre seemed intriguing to me. I particularly liked this idea of an artist expressing themselves in a manner outside their discipline. In this case, we have a musician writing a poetic piece about blues music.

From its inception, Primrose Press has had a charitable aspect to it. A portion of all sales are donated. Over the years, Primrose has donated to local organizations like the Connecticut Food Bank, as well as international charities like HelpAge. Dave and I talked about donating the sales proceeds to a music-related non-profit organization. He provided invaluable input regarding organizations that were not only reputable, but whose mission we might wish to support. The Blues Foundation with their Hart Fund (Handy Artists Relief Trust) just seemed like the perfect organization for the project. As a lover of blues music, it always bothered me that those talented blues men and women are too often forgotten as they age. In the scheme of things and in relation to the joy that their music has given me, it is a tiny thing to print these cards and donate the proceeds.

This piece [, the Blues Letterpress Note Card,] involved an extended print day of playing around with metal typefaces, ink, and sending probably too many photos and text messages to my collaborator. The text that Dave wrote was so beautiful. I always enjoy setting type for poetry. Usually it is my own poems that I am setting, editing, and obsessively re-editing, so it was a pleasure to pick a subtle typeface and set his writing.

I mixed up a blue ink, printed a background layer, and then realized that I wanted to build up the background with multiple colors before printing the text. Knowing that I had a limited time on the press, but not wanting to short change the piece. I figured the best way to do this without losing time cleaning the press, and re-inking was to add and mix colors on the press. Obvious for most seasoned printers, but at that time I was a bit of a purist wanting a clean press between color changes. So the piece started from one blue, and then builds into several that are all within the same family with just the addition of blues and blacks. During the print run as I was texting photos of lock-ups and pieces in the drying rack, Dave announced that he had just been nominated for the Grammy. So after my “Shut up!” text had been sent to him, I nervously locked up the final layer of the piece: his text.

People have reacted amazingly to the piece. It was a limited edition piece, and is almost sold out. I printed some additional small postcard size prints on variety of blue-colored Crane’s papers, and those are still available at the Print Center in Philadelphia.

I recently discovered Black & Missing Foundation, Inc. This is an organization run by two woman in D.C. that helps publicize the plight of missing African American children and adults. Basically, they give a voice to invisible people whose stories are not featured in the media. A percentage of purchases made during the month of December from Primrose Press’ Etsy shop is donated to Black & Missing. I look forward to offering additional collaborative limited edition prints that will benefit ailing musicians.

Tia Blassingame Al Mutanabbi

Other charitable projects: [I am a part of] the Al-Mutanabbi project. It has several parts, and the first was letterpress broadsides. The current one features artists’ books. It involves letterpress printers/bookmakers from across the globe. I created a print (handset letterpress & etching) for the broadside portion; and am finishing up my artists’ book (letterpress). The project was inspired by the bombing of the bookselling street in Baghdad. The broadsides have been exhibited internationally, and soon the artists’ books will be, too. The artists’ books will also become part of the permanent collection at the National Library of Bagdad.

Jennifer Larkin – The Paper Peony

Jen Larkin

I’ve been designing and printing wedding stationery and invitations since 2002.  In 2006 I began taking letterpress classes in the evening at Columbia College here in Chicago.  I, like many, became smitten.  I enjoyed the time intensive task of pulling each card, by color, off the Vandercook. Inspecting every lovely unique print. For over a year I rented time through the college printing custom cards and stationery. In 2007 I opened The Paper Peony on Etsy.

Excitingly in late 2007, with the help of Briar Press, I acquired a sturdy well kept Chandler & Price Pilot press from Milwaukee. For $1,000 I considered it a gift, and luckily my supportive husband Shaun agreed.  It came with ink, cotton paper, 2 drawers of metal type, tympan and more…we were able to carry the 250 pound press to the basement to the sweet little studio my husband built for me. In 2009 we began searching for a larger press. By October ‘Gretchen’ was delivered in the rain to our garage from KY at 7am.  An 1,100 pound Vandercook #4 that needed tons of care.

A few years later I released the lettersass™ card line including sassy sayings, petit cards and simplicity with rounded corners and stripes.  The cards bring some humor to life milestones like marriage, having a baby, birthdays, graduations and more.

In 2011, I found out my lovely college roommate Jenny was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had no risk factors, she did everything right. Her cancer had been forming for a while, and was only going to get worse. It was an easy and an instant decision to create a lettersass card that would spotlight breast cancer.  Most importantly, because I could donate a part of the profits to help find a cure. I’ve had amazing feedback locally – especially from sisters of cancer survivors and the ones still fighting. One of the things Jenny most wants women to know is how ESSENTIAL it is to have mammograms, as SOON as possible. Her cancer would never have been felt. A mammogram is the only way she would ever have found out.

If you’ve got photos online of your letterpress work that is for a great cause and you’d like to share them, please include a link in your comment!

Boxcar Talk With Sarah Adams

From the finer potions of foil and embossing, to serenading the presses with the deep tremble of the baritone saxophone, to attaining graphic perfection, Sarah Adams, the printing maven behind Letterpress Graphics, Inc. knits together all of these aspects into one extraordinary tapestry of craft and creativity. In between runs, we were able to catch up with her to get the scoop on printing the dream in the Lone Star state.

I, PRINTER 23 year business owner; ‘85 Journalism/Print grad from East Texas State University (now Texas A&M Commerce); loves the art of foil stamping, embossing, die cutting, print…anything related to torturing oneself on LP’s.  Personal:  love snow sports, motorcycling, hiking on my 25 acres in Ithaca as much as possible, and music.  Not sure how I forgot my other favorite “machine”, the [1927 “Chu Berry” baritone] saxophone. It’s my other break from this madness, playing bari sax in the local community band.  I play the darn thing while I’m running presses  (those dastardly long runs)! Like antique LP’s, it’s pure love!

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT I was a journalism student at East Texas State University, whose interest in finishing started through a work-study program. I held two jobs—one as circulation manager of the newspaper, The East Texan, and the other was working in the print shop running a C&P newspaper web press, Kluge, Baum folders, Heidelberg offset and working in the bindery.

As a senior in 1984, I needed to burn internship credits and heard from a friend who worked for a Dallas finisher that the owner was always looking for help. I did the internship, and then in 1985 started full time after graduation as a Kluge foil stamp/emboss trainee (with a Bachelor’s degree).

LETTERPRESS IN THE LONE STAR STATE We’re located in 10,000 square feet of awesome production space in the thick of dynamic downtown Fort Worth, Texas. Practically walking distance to world class entertainment at the Bass Hall and on the west side we have the museum district, The Modern, The Amon Carter and Will Rogers complexes, adjacent to Trinity Park and the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens. Awesome city!

PRINTING MENTORS My finishing mentors would be first and foremost, my former instructor at ETSU, Lyndal Burnett, who taught me the beauty and simplicity in these machines and what they could do.  Gary Long, a former Drawing Board foil and emboss expert, gave me the finer points of foil and emboss make-readies.

FULL TIME FUN I print, foil, emboss, and die cut and I’ve been involved in the trade full-time since 1985; I’ve been self-employed since 1989.

PRESS HISTORY A 50’s model N-Series Kluge, her name when I started in mom & dad’s garage…… was “Ed” (Edna).  Then came Ted (Theodora), Fred (Fredrique), and Ned (Nadine).  So you can imagine the cussing when the pressure was on to be running 3-4 at once…

Anywho, all the “girls” are still in production, along with 5 others (we ran out of names).  For years my guys have referred to Edna as “Grandma”.  She’s been in service daily now since 1989.

PROUD MOMENTS Growing with the people and associates over 27 years that’s landed us here; leading 17 fantastic people in our quest for graphic perfection for our clients.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar Press has been a tremendous help with expertise in getting things off the ground in the deep relief “hobby”. The plate set up…and of course their amazing ability to read these files and see what will (and won’t) work.  I loved my tour a few years ago, too — Cathy was so kind, and we had a fantastic lunch!

SHOP TIPS Business/life….it’s all the same thing to me.  Most important lesson to succeed:  Quitters never win, and winners never quit.  Carpe Diem! 2013 is on its way!

WHAT’S NEXT 2013 brings my 50th year on the planet, and with it, plans to visit Germany (my partner’s native land). On the business front, plans are to work with our clients on expanding our service offering (to be determined!), and with any luck, more and more exciting print projects from my amazing designers!

Big heaping round of thanks out to Sarah Adams for letting us get the sneak peak at Letterpress Graphics!

Boxcar Talk With Julie Nash of Duet Letterpress

The soft staccato clicking of a Pearl Press. The fluid transfer of the ink to paper. The deft movements of feeding the press. All sync together in a performance that results in one of the many print runs at Duet Letterpress. We caught up with Julie Nash to find out just what it takes to keep this letterpress dance moving.

THE DUET DUO Duet Letterpress is a graphic design and letterpress studio owned and operated by a husband and wife duo. We specialize in custom projects including (but not limited to) stationery, invitations, announcements and business cards. Everything is designed in-house and individually handprinted on our turn of the century, pedal-operated Golding Pearl press.

I’m Julie, half of the Duet duo. I’m a Cajun girl who loves traveling, dark chocolate, really good music and pretty things. My husband, Kacey, is the other half. He was born in Texas and raised in Tulsa. He loves movies, video games and has a crazy knack for trivia. He’s an avid sailor. We also happen to be passionate about letterpress printing.

IN LOVE WITH LETTERPRESS My obsession with letterpress printing began when we were looking for invitations for our wedding. Once I held a thick, cotton letterpress printed invitation in my hand, I was in love. It felt so luxurious and special. I wanted to know more about how it was made. I started doing extensive research into the art of letterpress printing and was positively hooked.

TWIN TALENTS IN TEXAS We print in a small 12′ x 12′ studio in the Austin, Texas area. With a lot of organization and a flood of natural light, the space works out quite well for us. And, I love being in such a creative hub.

PRINTING ROLE MODELS When we were first starting out, smaller letterpress businesses like Simplesong Design [who has since really taken off!] to larger, print heavy companies like Studio On Fire really inspired us and still do!

THE DAILY GRIND Many concepts start with a brainstorming session and a pencil and paper. From there, I’ll either take the designs into the computer and convert them to vector artwork or start fresh using Illustrator to recreate the designs. The vector graphics are then sent off to Boxcar to make photopolymer plates to use for our letterpress printing.

DESIGN MEETS PRINT Thanks to my strong graphic design background, we are able to provide both print and design services. For me, I see letterpress printing as an extension of what I already knew and loved – designing. By doing our own printing, I’m able to have a hand in everything from start to finish. From brainstorming on pencil and paper to mixing ink to holding the freshly printed piece in my hand. I crave what I do and truly love it.

FOCUSED ON THE BUSINESS I design and print full time. Although we established the business in 2008, it wasn’t until 2009 that I was able to focus my attention solely on Duet Letterpress. Prior to that, I was working full time as an in-house graphic designer.

PRESS HISTORY We spent many months researching the type of press that would best fit our needs. We needed it to be on the smaller side yet pedal-operated. Once we decided on a Pearl Press, we then spent many more months locating one.

Since then, we’ve acquired another Pearl Press as well as an Old Style Chandler & Price that we are currently restoring and hoping to get it printing again.

We searched from Texas to Florida and then started making our way north through the states until we located a Golding Improved Pearl No. 11 Press in Missouri. One weekend, Kacey and I rented an SUV, drove up to Missouri, disassembled the press and drove it home. Then, it took more months for him to clean it, prime it, paint it, reassemble the press and get it working again.

PRINTING FEATS I’m really proud of how far we’ve come with our printing knowledge and techniques. On our little Pearl Press, we’ve been able to print some very laborious pieces with tight registration like the invites we printed for our daughter’s first birthday party.

The printing information and videos on Boxcar were very valuable when we were first starting out. We’ve also gotten several tools and inks as well as the photopolymer plates that we use each time we print.

SHOP TIPS A while back on a letterpress printing forum, I remember reading about how there is a reason other forms of printing took over letterpress printing in the mainstream world of printing. Letterpress printing is hard work and very time-consuming. However, the finished piece is beautiful and something to be admired and respected. When it’s done right, it is truly a piece of art. It’s one of the reasons we continue to do what we do and love it so much!

WHAT’S NEXT I just feel so happy that I’m able to do what I love each day. I plan to continue to design and print and see where 2013 takes us!

Big round of thanks to Julie for letting us get the full story on the many sides of Duet Letterpress!

Boxcar Talk With Eric Woods

A year-long celebration commemorating the 10 year anniversary at The Firecracker Press in St. Louis, Missouri is in full swing. The beginnings were humble in a dirty old warehouse with a questionable freight elevator, but two moves later, they are thriving & pushing the limits at their present space. Owner Eric Woods and Print Shop Manager Matty Kleinberg confess they eat, drink, and sleep letterpress, and it’s a diet that has served them well.

HOMETOWN ROOTS I’m originally from the small town of Piedmont, Missouri. My close family is from that region and I still have close ties to the area. One of my grandfathers owned a lumber and hardware business, the other was a retired Missouri State Park Superintendent. I grew up with one foot in town and the other deep in the country.

THINK INK I had known about letterpress since art school in the 1990s but didn’t get involved until well after. I’d worked in New York designing book covers, had come home to work at the local newspaper, and then got recruited to St. Louis by a large ad firm. The idea of starting a letterpress studio had been percolating for 5-6 years and after feeling unfulfilled with my design career I came home to tell my wife I was quitting my job. At the time we called it “going off the grid” but I had a feeling it was the right thing to do. Within days of quitting, I had signed up for a letterpress class through a local printer and rented a studio space with a few mates.

Letterpress quickly proved the perfect combination of graphic design and hands-on craftsmanship. It was everything I’d been searching for and offered complete control from concept to production. In an odd way I’d been practicing for a career in letterpress my whole life. I bought a C+P 10×15 in 2002 and The Firecracker Press was born!

SPLENDOR IN THE SHOW-ME STATE We own a 2500 sq. ft. building in the Cherokee neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri. The front of the shop is a mix of retail and studio space. We sell posters, books, cards, and stationery… all of it made in the back of the studio. If you stop by you’ll see printmaking in action and we’re happy to show visitors around. We have two C+P platen presses, a Golding Pearl, two Vandercooks (#4, SP20), a large sign press, and a variety of smaller desktop platens. I guess I’d call our decorating style functional chaos but we try to run a clean shop.

A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE Dick Niehaus introduced me to the St. Louis Letterpress Society and helped me find our first press. We’ve learned a lot from Dick and others in the Society and they’ve been a great resource over the years. We’re lucky to have such a thriving group and a rich history of letterpress printing in St. Louis.

THE DAILY GRIND We work with a wide range of clients but most jobs start out the same way… with a conversation. We research the project, draw out ideas, and then build designs on the computer.

Once we’ve got a tight mockup we’ll go through a round of changes with the client and work toward final approval. We use the approved mockup as a road map to construct hand-carved woodblocks, lead or woodtype, and/or photopolymer on press. There is real magic that happens from the digital realm to the tangible, printed form and that’s what keeps us hooked. After 10 years I’m still surprised at the moment of creation.

FULL TIME FUN We’re open 6 days a week and print full time. From the beginning it was important that we jump in with both feet. We eat, drink, and sleep letterpress.

LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT Technically our first press was a Nolan Proof Press that my father helped me dig out of an old school. But the press that launched The Firecracker Press was a C+P 10×15 that we rescued from an old printshop. The owner was retiring and had sold off all his other equipment. The only thing left was the C+P . My friends and I moved it across the state and onto the second floor of our first studio. It fit through the front door and into the elevator but was larger than the door to my studio by about 6 inches (a rookie mistake). We tore the wall down and put up new drywall before morning. My landlord never suspected a thing.

INSPIRED BY THE PAST We love rescuing old equipment and giving it new life. We have studio tours for all ages that pass on the knowledge we’ve gained. We’ve got a robust internship program and have hired several interns as part-time and full-time employees. Our connection to history through the methods/techniques we use inspires us. It’s always a pleasure to meet people that have old stories or are somehow drawn to printing. We’re
proud and feel lucky that we’ve been able to do what we love for so long! Our clients have been generous and amazing.

BOXCAR’S ROLE You guys used to make photopolymer plates for us on a regular basis. We now make our own but do use your services for plates that are over-sized. We’re inspired by Boxcar’s size and reach.

SHOP TIPS The question we hear most from young artists and printers is: “How much do I charge for my work?”, and our answer is this: letterpress rarely comes easy and is often accompanied by hard work that our clients never see. As a result, we continually educate our clients and communicate with them throughout the making process. We set expectations early and work hard to deliver quality work. We developed a cost schedule in the early days after researching new and old methods of structuring prices. We’ve updated it over the years but it’s a system that’s served us well.

WHAT’S NEXT We hope to expand the studio and are working on plans to build onto our current location. If all goes well, we’ll more than double in size, with a venue for performances, a larger retail shop, a garden, and of course, more studio space.

Lots of thanks out to Eric for letting us get the full scoop on Firecracker Press!

Boxcar Talk With Katie Daniels of Concrete Lace

Armed with sharpies, inks, and a dazzling inspiration, Katie Daniels of Concrete Lace is a phenomenal front to shaping the way letterpress has been deftly handling those warm wishes and special greetings to friend and family alike, be it a an eye-popping invitation or a special run edition card. A Georgia native, Katie’s been imbibing the wonderfully sweet fruits of the creative process.

If you’re in the Asheville, North Carolina area between August 2nd-5th, you should pop in to the Ladies of Letterpress Conference and say a big hello to Katie, as she’ll be rousing up some fun at the printer’s fair!

IT’S ALL IN THE CARDS I am originally from Foley, Alabama, on the Gulf Coast of Alabama (a sleepy town that didn’t know what to do with a rebellious punk vegan in the early 90’s). My mother is very creative, always had art supplies around and is no doubt the reason why I am an artist today. As a four-year-old, she encouraged me to start selling my handmade cards annually at the Foley “Art In The Park”event. 30 years later, after moving to Atlanta, the card making tradition continues under the name my awesome sister, Carla Kaiser, came up with: Concrete Lace. I also love history, collecting, cooking, exploring, gardening, animals and being a nerd.

LETTERPRESS FOR LIFE I had dabbled in printmaking in the past, but when I got engaged in 2008, I really wanted to print my own invitations. A friend of mine told me about a local company, Praxium Press, who let you rent their press. The owner, Berwyn, was an awesome guy who introduced me to the Vandercook world. I loved it and immediately started designing & printing letterpress greeting cards and Atlanta neighborhood postcards, and was printing there so often that he convinced me it was time to get my own press. My awesome husband, Paul, then decided to set me up with a Vandercook studio in our home where Concrete Lace is thriving today.

GIFTED IN GEORGIA My studio is in my home, with the Vandercook & Kelsey upstairs in the small 7×10″ studio, and the Kluge, C&P and large format Challenge cutter down in the one-car garage. My upstairs studio is an inspirational eclectic mess, and the garage is more industrial feeling. I love to crank up local tunes super loud when I am printing, and I like to let the music set the tone for my productivity.

LIFE LESSONS + PRINTING MENTORS I had a fortunate job at one of the best health food stores, Brighter Day in Savannah, Georgia, while in college. I worked there for many years, and befriended a dear woman who also worked there, the late Joan Cobitz. Joan was among the first female MFA printmaking graduates of her time. She served as a major inspiration to me, as we traded house cleaning expeditions for printmaking classes in her home studio (printmaking was not offered at SCAD at the time). She was a great story teller and mentor for me and I think of her daily, not only in the press room, but also when I use her culinary advice or her prized Sabatier kitchen knife.

After graduating, I moved to Atlanta, and was fortunate enough to buy a house next door to a fourth generation letterpress printer, David Brough. He was a kind and generous man who loved his presses and loved to share information. Through David’s passing, I met another printer, Kevin O’Neil, who serves as my primary letterpress mentor today. Kevin very generously donated a beautiful C&P and Kluge to my pressroom, along with his invaluable information, which I will cherish forever.

DAILY GRIND For illustrations and hand lettering, I start out either with sharpies or pen and ink, then scan them in and convert them to vector graphics in Illustrator. Some illustrations are done directly on the computer in Illustrator (sometimes Photoshop then Illustrator), but I do all of my layouts, typesetting and separations in InDesign. My designing system is different for each line of cards as I like to switch things up so that I am always exploring new things. For example, I did a great deal of research on tapestries, pottery, wall paintings and other historic references when coming up with designs for my Greek and Hebrew lines, but did more hand lettering and illustration for my pet sitter cards, and illustration & typesetting for my French and German series.

THE DESIGNER IN THE PRINTER I am a professionally trained graphic designer, as well as a printer.

FULL TIME FUN I am a full time designer and a “part time” printer (but more like a 2nd full time job). I will never stop designing, so it is not my goal to give that up. I love it too much!

A LUCKY FIND I looked a year for a Vandercook SP15 or #4 (the only two sizes that would fit in my tiny upstairs studio), but no luck until I got Steve Robinson involved. He found me a #4 from an ink testing studio, and the press was in beautiful condition, with minimal miles logged and only one owner!

A VARIETY OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS I have won the Redbull Flugtag competition twice, thousands of dollars in numerous halloween costume contests, fostered and placed over 30 dogs, donated eggs twice, taught myself how to proficiently speak German in three years, forgot how to speak German in three months, taught myself how to play the accordion, started piano lessons at age 23, started tap lessons at age 31, won several design awards for work done for Emmy awards packaging and work created for television networks TNT, TBS and Turner Classic Movies, and most importantly, started Concrete Lace.

BOXCAR’S ROLE Boxcar sold me my base for my Vandercook and my Kelsey press, and I have been ordering my plates from Boxcar ever since. I really do find value in the relationships I have established with Boxcar, and feel that they have set a high industry standard, and high expectations, for customer service and plate making. They are fast and their site is user-friendly — key reasons for why I use them.

SHOP TIPS Don’t be discouraged. 1) This industry is all about exploring and learning, so I feel like even the biggest mistakes are the best teachers. 2) These machines were around WAY before any of us, and WAY before computers. We sometimes need to back off and not put pressure on ourselves to meet today’s standards of timing. These machines are much more powerful than we are, so it’s so important to think clearly and work at a pace that is comfortable for each of us individually.

WHAT’S NEXT I am working on an Italian line, and have two more lines in the works that will have to be a surprise… They probably won’t be ready until 2013, at this rate!

Big round of thanks out to Katie for letting us take a peek around the shop at Concrete Lace! Don’t forget to say “Hi!” to her at the Ladies of Letterpress Conference on August 2nd-5th, 2012!